As part of the EU-funded project, Building Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Coastal Southeast Asia (BCR), the provinces Soc Trang, Kien Giang, Ben Tre and Can Gio District in Viet Nam have been selected to strengthen capacity and pilot adaptation activities for reducing climate change vulnerabilities. In Viet Nam, the BCR project partners with the Viet Nam Administration of Seas and Islands (VASI) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) and GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation).
A considerable amount of documentation has been produced during the lifetime of the project. In Viet Nam, this has included a Situation Analysis, participatory tools in Vietnamese language to conduct Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments, adaptation planning (the PLI tool), and actual results of the VCAs and PLIs. The tools have been handed over to partners who are now using them to improve participatory outcomes from their day-to-day government work.
Ten pilot projects are being implemented in the Viet Nam project sites and highlights are covered below, ahead of the third and last BCR Coastal Forum to be held in Cambodia.
Challenges in Can Gio: Can Gio’s mangroves are an important storm protection barrier for Ho Chi Minh City. In the recent past, mangrove forests here have been indiscriminately cut. The household forest protection contracts granted by the government vest joint responsibility for protection with individual households that reside on allocated plots of forests. However, this form of forest protection has not been as effective due to encroachment from neighboring communities. Problems have been compounded as a result of erratic weather conditions, which have led to livelihoods being at greater risk.
Can Gio Pilot Activity 1 seeks to protect 35,286.53 ha of mangroves in the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve by improving the skills of local households to engage in mangrove protection. The household-based mangrove protection, that involved 172 families, has been transformed into 37 community working groups together with establishing the group’s operational regulations for mangrove protection. These households understand and practice methods of first aid, flood prevention, and disaster response and rescue. Joint community patrols are being conducted, which has reduced cases of violation of forest protection regulations by 35% in comparison with 2013, in addition to reducing patrolling expenses and risk cost by 37%.
Can Gio Pilot Activity 2 aims to diversify local livelihoods and improve income generation of forest protection households in the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, in order to reduce exploitation pressure on aquatic resources. So far, an oyster raising model (7 target households in Long Hoa and Thanh An communes), a snail raising model (14 target households in Thanh An, Ly Nhon, Tam Thon Hiep Commune), a tilapia and crab raising model (15 households Tam Thon Hiep, Ly Nhon, Thanh An Commune), and tour guide training course (for 90 forest protectors) are being implemented. As the aquaculture models are now operational and are showing successes, it is aimed that they are applied to the rest of the community. Resulting from this, it is expected that a 15% overall increase in household income is set to take place.
Can Gio Pilot Activity 3 seeks to build up a key climate change and natural resource protection communication team, involving 172 forest protectors and 70 people (10 persons per involved commune) from local communities in the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve. Through training imparted with the help of specially developed materials, the communication team’s capacity is being strengthened and developed in environmental protection and climate change adaptation knowledge. This enables them to carry out awareness-raising activities and further the communication network in Can Gio District. Broadcasting programmes were conducted in six communes and one town within 12 months. Leaflets and posters were developed and disseminated for advocacy. Uniforms have been designed for the core communications team.
Challenges in Soc Trang Province: Trung Binh and An Thanh Nam communes were identified as the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The pilot projects aim to reduce the damage to crops faced by the 60 hectare-large vegetable growing area from high tides. The cultivated areas are protected by a poorly designed earth dyke that is constantly being eroded by coastal storms and spring tides, leading to considerable crop losses. This is accentuated by uncertain extreme weather conditions that are putting pressure on the vegetable and shrimp crops of local farmers. Certain villages in both communes face a shortage of clean household water which makes daily lives and practicing livelihoods difficult.
Soc Trang Pilot Activity 1 promotes community-based adaptation to deal with high tides and sea level rise by strengthening the sea dyke with native vegetation. This protects cultivated land in Mo O Hamlet of Tran De District in Soc Trang. Key activities include mobilizing the community to fortify the dyke for the storm season, planting native vegetation along the dyke to protect against erosion, and organizing the community to safeguard mangroves in front of the dyke and to monitor it. However, the project was not entirely successful and the dyke failed before the vegetation could take root. A stocktaking of the situation and discussions with government partners and GIZ in Soc Trang pointed to the need for expert technical advice. Expert advice was received that the dyke design and construction was flawed and would continue to fail. This led to the commissioning of a proper earth dyke design and construction process. The dyke design study was completed early this year, together with a cost benefit analysis, and provided to the local and provincial government with the expectation that the government would source funds to reconstruct the dyke according to the recommended design and construction process.
Soc Trang Pilot Activity 2 functions with the objective to address freshwater scarcity for poor households in Trung Binh and An Thanh Nam communes in order to efficiently collect, store and maintain freshwater supplies. The project has provided 50 poor households with durable plastic water tanks, constructed latrines with septic tanks for 120 poor households, and extended a water pipe system to serve 93 households who had no previous access to clean water.
Soc Trang Pilot Activity 3 seeks to conserve important aquatic coastal species, as a part of a diversified livelihood strategy in An Thanh Nam and Trung Binh communes. The project is working in collaboration with a GIZ led co-management initiative that has already developed awareness-raising materials and regulations to manage coastal resources in both the communes. The main outputs include community agreements on conservation of important coastal aquatic species, establishing a community managed giant river prawn bank and a swimming-crab bank model in An Thanh Nam and Trung Binh. The former model has yielded 30 gravid-carrying prawns in its first month, and more than 800 gravid-carrying prawns by September, 2014. As a result, it has already received the attention of the Director of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in the province, who encouraged other coastal districts to replicate it. This is the first such demonstration of a river prawn bank model in the Mekong Delta. An Asiatic White Clam breeding area has also been demarcated in Cu Lao Dung island, with floating bouys marking the 30 hectare conservation zone.
Soc Trang Pilot Activity 4 supports the local Women’s Unions to increase the capacity of women to adapt to climate change in An Thanh Nam and Trung Binh communes. The objective is to ensure that women have access to relevant climate change information, so that they can participate in public discussions on climate change and related environmental management issues in their communities. The project has assessed knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards environmental sanitation programmes which has helped in identifying beneficiaries and ways in which sanitation facilities should be designed. The training of 40 communicators is enabling dissemination and sharing of information related to climate change issues directed at women and the wider community. Livelihood assistance has been provided to 30 poor women in Trung Binh, who have been trained to repair fishing nets. Another activity is piloting the cultivation of high-yield salinity resistant sugarcane, led by women. Furthermore, the Women’s Union has also trained 20 households to produce compost from waste materials.
Challenges in Kien Giang Province: The pilot projects aim to raise the community’s awareness and build capacity for climate change adaptation and environmental co-management of two poor hamlets – Vam Ray and Thuan An in Binh Son Commune. Particularly in Vam Ray, the coastal sea dyke is overtopped during storms because of the low elevation and the eroded coastal mangrove strip that contributes to erosion. Freshwater scarcity and poor sanitation facilities are problems compounding the vulnerability of these communes. This is linked to climate change projections that indicate an increased salinity of underground and coastal surface water sources as well as unpredictable rainfall patterns will contribute to freshwater scarcity.
Kien Giang Pilot Activity 1 works in Binh Son Commune to increase public awareness by installing a loudspeaker system to integrate climate change into news broadcasts. This system directly provides weather reports and storm warnings, and is the key medium for coveying climate change information and related activities. A training course for local communicators has also been designed and completed. Other activities focus on improving sanitation, encouraging water-use efficiency, and diversifying livelihoods by promoting livestock-raising.
Kien Giang Pilot Activity 2 aims to provide facilities to collect and store freshwater as well as improved sanitation facilities for poor households in Binh Son Commune. The project has given 60 poor households durable plastic water tanks to increase the water storage capacity as well as latrines with septic tanks to reduce contamination of freshwater sources.. A planned community waste collection system was not able to be implemented because of changes in the local government leadership which was not able to commit to funding the system after the BCR project ended.
Kien Giang Pilot Activity 3 seeks to stabilise the eroding mangrove mud flats along a strip of Binh Son Commune’s coastline in order to rehabilitate mangroves and protect the community residents, their properties and agricultural crops from inundation. This has been made possible through the construction of a 900 metre-long fence made of locally available Melaleuca wood poles. Construction was completed early this year. This fence has been designed to trap sediments and acts as a wave barrier for naturally rejuvenating mangrove seedlings. After 8 months, sediment accumulation has increased by 39 cm.
Challenges in Ben Tre Province: The illegal conversion of coastal land to shrimp ponds, poor farming practices and the pumping of sand onto coastal flats to grow crops, combined with the effects of storms and other extreme weather events, have led to coastal erosion and a serious loss of mangrove area. Furthermore, the changing weather patterns, poor aquaculture zoning, and water pollution have been associated with large-scale deaths of bi-valve populations. Besides these threats to agricultural land and marine resources, aquaculture and horticultural products have highly unstable market prices. The lack of adequate capital limits the ability of community members to diversify livelihoods, and insecure land tenure further increases their vulnerability.
Ben Tre Pilot Activity 1 aims to develop community based eco-tourism in the coastal nature reserve and the environmental protection area of Thanh Phong Commune in Thanh Phu District, Ben Tre Province. The objective is to raise awareness of all stakeholders to preserve coastal mangroves, protect the natural environment and conserve and promote local culture, while bringing in real value for the benefit of communities. The project will work through the Thanh Phong co-management initiative for identifying beneficiaries and developing regulations for ecotourism activities. Workshops and training courses have been provided to raise awareness on sustainable development. At present, four ‘career’ groups covering handicrafts, transportation and guided tours, tourism organizations and fish processing have been established to serve visiting tours. Developed tours are being promoted, and a Community Support Centre with connections to the tourism market in Ben Tre City is under development.
Ben Tre Pilot Activity 2 operates with the objective to promote community forestry management and improve the mangrove based shrimp poly-culture model for 20 households in An Thuy Commune of Ba Tri District, Ben Tre Province. Two forest protection and forestry-fishery production groups have been established, with training provided to build community capacity. Ponds have been prepared to meet the required criteria, and these are regularly being monitored with results being shared during group meetings. The project will serve as a small-scale pilot for Ben Tre by improving the efficiency of mangrove aquaculture, by establishing regulations for forest protection and community-run mangrove aquaculture. The Ben Tre Forest Protection Unit has the mandate to develop the regulations for mangrove aquaculture and to apply the results from the pilot activity at the provincial level.
By Ria Sen